Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Our office holiday gathering is coming soon and we need some pointers for heading off potentially icy conversations. Do you have any?
It’s that time of year again - amidst holiday shopping and budget reviews, employers are reacquainting themselves with in-person company holiday parties. While these gatherings build goodwill, they are also fraught with peril from an employment law standpoint. And, in today's environment, conversations that may be fueled by spirits can spiral into heated – and inappropriate –interactions at work. This in turn can snowball into abusive patterns – which employers need to avoid. So, along with messaging about appropriate behavior, emphasis should be placed on how to navigate conversations about hot button issues.
First, seek to thaw political divisiveness – we all know what can happen when someone badgers another about their “flawed” views related to election fraud, reproductive rights, Jan 6, or Critical Race Theory. It tends to strengthen their viewpoint or at least their willingness to take on a heated debate! If the issue must be addressed, consider responding with an attempt to understand. This doesn’t mean you must agree with their point of view. Seek out the reasonable explanations for why someone holds a perspective they have. Lead with a phrase such as “I want to make sure I understand…” and see if the icy chill can thaw rather than harden.
And next, don't throw snowballs – resist the impulse to counter an opposing viewpoint. Indicate that you have really heard someone by paraphrasing the core idea they have expressed. Instead of forcing your view, ask if they “would be open to hearing a different perspective…?”
With this, hopefully you are positioned to BUILD an ICE PALACE: turn the potential chill into a bridge to civility.
If you’ve gotten this far, look for some common ground. Perhaps you can Identify a shared concern or draw out an individual’s motivation by asking simple questions that focus on positive change: “What change would you like to see?” or “I wonder how we could apply this issue to our workplace?”
Unresolved issues can lead to fissures. On the other hand, respectfully acknowledging our differences can be a catalyst for meaningful change. This holiday season, let’s try to replace any scrooge-like dynamics with good tidings…for all!